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Drivers with more expensive cars are less likely to yield to pedestrians, study finds

Researchers say more driver education is necessary to keep consumers safe

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Imagine that you’re driving down the street and you’re coming up on a crosswalk. The street lights are beginning to change and a person is getting ready to cross the street; do you speed up and try to make it through before getting stuck or slow down and give them the right of way? 

Unfortunately, many consumers would choose the former -- and it turns out that the value of the car they drive may be a big predictor of their behavior. 

Researchers from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) recently analyzed the actions of nearly 500 drivers who experienced a similar situation to the one described above. They found that only 28 percent slowed down and yielded to pedestrians. Perhaps more eye-opening is the fact that the likelihood that they would stop went down by 3 percent for every extra $1,000 that their vehicle was worth.

“[The results show] that pedestrians are facing some challenges when it comes to safety, and it’s really concerning,” said lead author Courtney Coughenour. 

More driver education needed

Drivers’ penchant for not yielding to pedestrians can lead to tragic outcomes, even if they’re traveling at relatively low speeds. 

The researchers note that the average risk for severe injury for a pedestrian struck by a vehicle is 10 percent when drivers are traveling at only 16 miles per hour (mph). Those rates jump up to 25 percent at 23 mph and 50 percent at 31 mph. The highest rates of severe injury that were measured occur at 39 mph (75 percent) and 46 mph (90 percent). 

Coughenour says that the study findings indicate the need to educate drivers about traffic laws.

"Drivers need to be made aware that they legally have to yield. It's hard to say whether they're not yielding because they don't know the laws or because they don't want to yield," she said. "Further study is needed to examine that. Until then, the bigger thing is driver education."

The full study has been published in the Journal of Transport & Health.

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